Vitamin D May Lower Risk for Colon Cancer in Younger Adults



Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for building healthy bones, supporting immune health and maintaining muscle and brain cell function. A new study published in Gastroenterology suggests increased levels of vitamin D could help prevent colon cancer.

New Research Regarding Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer

Colon cancer incidence is reportedly declining in many countries, but the incidence is increasing in younger adults. Family history and heredity only account for a small percentage of colon cancer among early-onset cases, so experts suspect lifestyle patterns and dietary habits play a significant role.

Scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and other institutions analyzed the Nurses’ Health Study II data. They were particularly interested in finding an association between vitamin D intake and young-onset colon cancer, diagnosed before 50 years of age.

Kimmie Ng is the Director of the Young-Onset Colon Cancer Center at Dana-Farber. “Vitamin D has known activity against colorectal cancer in laboratory studies,” Ng said. “Because vitamin D deficiency has been steadily increasing over the past few years, we wondered whether this could be contributing to the rising rates of colorectal cancer in young individuals” (The Harvard Gazette).

Ng and colleagues found that a daily intake of 300 IU or more of vitamin D per day was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of colon cancer among women under 50. That is equal to three eight-ounce glasses of milk.

Dietary vitamin D displayed more favorable results than vitamin D supplements, suggesting that vitamin D offers more protective benefits when ingested in food sources. Good sources of vitamin D include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring
  • Egg yolks
  • Red meat
  • Liver
  • Fortified foods like breakfast cereal, milk and orange juice
  • Mushrooms

Ng says the study results underscore the importance of vitamin D in young adults’ health and possibly preventing colon cancer. “It is critical to understand the risk factors that are associated with young-onset colorectal cancer so that we can make informed recommendations about diet and lifestyle, as well as identify high-risk individuals to target for earlier screening,” said Ng.

How You Can Lower Your Risk for Colon Cancer

While diet and exercise are essential for health and cancer prevention, the best way to lower your risk for colon cancer is a colon cancer screening. The gold standard is colonoscopy because it allows your doctor to examine the entire colon for precancerous growths called polyps and remove any suspicious lesions. Colonoscopy offers not only the ability to diagnose colon cancer, but to treat and prevent it, all in a single exam.

Schedule Your Colonoscopy Before Your Deductible Resets

When was your last colonoscopy? The recommended age for colon cancer screening is now 45, so it may be time for you to schedule an appointment.

If you have a family history of colon cancer or are experiencing symptoms that may be due to colon cancer, you should consult your physician. Colonoscopy may be recommended regardless of age.

It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the end of the calendar year. Colonoscopy is considered preventive care, so your procedure could be very low-cost or even free. Your deductible will reset in January, so contact your insurance company to verify your deductible status.

Find a Gastroenterologist in Your Area

If you are looking for a fellowship-trained gastroenterologist, we can help. Enter your zip code here to locate a GI doctor in your area. Don’t wait until December to schedule your colonoscopy. Call today.